By Letitia Hart

GRADE LEVEL:4-6/middle school

Creative Body Movement

Straight, round and arched back shapes and how to use them in dance

Body awareness, movement communication and response, and motor efficiency is enhanced through exploration using the three back shapes at different levels using axial and locomotor movements. Aesthetic appreciation in enhanced through audience feedback.

At the end of this lesson, students will perform a brief dance movement and will demonstrate the use of the three postures correctly, safely, and creatively. Students observe group dances and are asked to recall interesting shapes and tell why those shapes stood out as interesting. The audience is asked to point out contrasts in the group work, both planned and unplanned.

Dance is an internationally accepted art form that also meets the requirements for physical education. The purpose of this dance lesson is to help students to use different postures in their dances in order to add variety to their creations. Other foci are; giving students an appreciation for their backs and how to take care of them, working as partners and in a group to create movements using different postures, and practice freezing movement on command.

Direct instruction, guided discovery, and group process

dancer's space--the area used by the dancer without accidentally touching other dancers
locomotor - a dance movement that progresses across the dance area
axial - a dance movement that remains fixed in one part of the dance area
tailor sit -stright-backed sitting position with knees bent and feet close against thighs
butterfly stretch - stretching the inner thigh muscles in the tailor sitting position, with soles of feet together, by slowly bringing the knees toward the floor
straddle position - seated position with straight legs extended out so as to stretch the inner thighs, preferably with toes alternately pointed and flexed
improvisation - free-form or unplanned movement, often with a given set of parameters, such as round back, beginning, freeze, steps arched back, ending, contrast,level, straight back,posture, stretch, shape

While sitting in a circle, tell students they will begin with warm-up movements and that they should pay careful attention to what their backs are doing during these warm-ups. Ask students to be prepared to tell what they think the lesson will be about at the end of the warm-up.

Tailor sit, focusing on a straight back. Look L, R, L, R, then down and up. Round the back and attempt to touch the floor with the nose, then sit up straight.
Straddle position, arch the back, sticking tummy out, shoulders back, and chin up. Feel stretch in inner thighs. Lean forward with hands on floor, straighten back and reach forward. Sit back up and turn L, round back—nose to knee. Repeat to R.
Butterfly position, soles of feet together, straight back, and stretch knees to floor.
Discuss sit-ups and the importance of strong abdominal muscles to protect the back from injury. Do 10 or more bent-knee sit-ups.
Roll onto tummies, push up slowly with hands and try to touch head with toes, arched back.
Ask what back shapes were stressed during warm-ups. Discuss objects in nature with similar shapes as round, straight, and arched back. (Examples: round back=older people, straight back=praying mantis, arched back=sway-backed horse) Ask why our backs are so important. Generate discussion that centers on the value of good posture for health, strength, and appearance. Explain goal of exploring ways to use different back shapes to add variety to dance movements.

Dancers move into dance space and freeze in a shape at the count of three.
Report any shapes that make obvious use of any of the three postures.
Have dancers remain within their space, say:
How many round-backed shapes can you show me without leaving your dance space?
This is called axial movement when you keep one body part planted on the floor and move the rest.
Look for good variety and have dancers freeze several times. Report:
I see round backed shapes on the floor/at medium/at high level.
Can you keep your round-back shapes as you take little steps around the room?
This is called locomotor movement when you move across the floor.

I see high/low level shapes moving slowly/quickly across the floor, etc.
Call freeze and report interesting shapes and locomotor movements.
Ask dancers to move about in slow motion using arched-back shapes. Report for levels and interesting shapes. Ask students:
Do you notice that arched-back shapes are not as comfortable as the other shapes?
Be careful when you arch your back. (Be sensitive to the discomfort of arched-back shapes when freezing students)
Explore all three back shapes in this manner.
As dancers move about during exploration, suggest that they find a partner to move with.
Ask if they can hold a shape and walk, step, crawl, or skip together. Report for interesting ensembles.
Have pairs move about within their space, (Axial pairs - one body part stays planted on the floor and another body part stays connected to partner) as they use the same back shape in different movements. Report for variety. Ask student pairs to combine with other pairs and create freeze shapes involving touching and the same back shape. Repeat several times and report interesting shapes utilizing the three back shapes.

Divide students into even-numbered groups of four or more. Tell students they will make a dance with their partners or as a group and perform it for the rest of the class. The dance will have:
A planned beginning using arched-back shapes. Then axial, paired movement-improvisation
A middle individual dance that involves improvisational locomotor movement using the straight-back shape
A paired, axial movement-improvisation during the final third of the dance using the round-back shape, finishing with a planned, round-back ending shape

Give groups 5-10 minutes to create beginning and ending shapes and work out their improvisations (students should be aware of each other during dance, even in improvisational movement). Circulate and offer advice.

Each group will perform its dance to music (I would choose something ethereal). Changes from beginning to middle to end should be signaled with a gong or bell. The rest of the class will watch the dance and be prepared for questions at the end.

Did you see the three back shapes?
Which ones were most interesting and why?
How did the different postures add contrast to the dances?
What parts were danced together and what parts were improvised?
Dancers must respond to questions as well.
What part of your dance was easiest and hardest?
What would you change and why?

Did dancers demonstrate body awareness, movement communication and response, and motor efficiency?
Was there adequate exploration using the three back shapes, different levels, axial and locomotor movements?
Did dancers demonstrate the use of the three postures correctly, safely, and creatively?
Did students observing group dances recall interesting shapes and tell why those shapes stood out as interesting? Were observers able to point out contrasts in the group work, both planned and unplanned?
Was criticism constructive?
Groups could be asked to rework their beginning and ending shapes, or collaborate more on the improvisational portions of the dance, then perform their revised version at a later time. A cultural focus could be added by exploring the postures used in different cultural dance forms, then using the music from those cultures in performance of the dances. Literary Arts can easily be incorporated by having dancers make journal entries describing their creative process.